Omar’s comments have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with Jews

Greg Nash

Upon entering Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had impressive qualities, a remarkable life story and, despite some real policy differences, took pride in being the first U.S. congresswoman in history to wear the traditional hijab head covering on the House floor.  

But quickly after assuming her seat representing Minnesota’s 5th District, her actions soured my impression of her. In a span of a few short months, she has made a series of blatantly disparaging remarks aimed at Jewish Americans, repeatedly revealing herself to be an anti-Semite.  

{mosads}Omar’s latest comments alleging dual loyalty are her worst yet. In saying “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country [Israel],” she voiced many old dog whistles, loud and clear, but some people failed to hear them — or preferred to ignore them.  

Despite genuine alarm from prominent Jewish Democratic politicians, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, some presidential candidates seemingly had little problem with her comments. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said: “Branding criticism of Israel as automatically anti-Semitic has a chilling effect on our public discourse and makes it harder to achieve a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Other Democratic presidential aspirants, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), made equally offensive comments. They spoke of Israel and somehow made Omar’s comments less aggressive because, as Harris put it, “We should be having a sound, respectful discussion about policy. You can both support Israel and be loyal to our country,’’ adding that, “I also believe there is a difference between criticism of policy or political leaders, and anti-Semitism.”

Both defenses are bizarre and shameful because Omar is not criticizing Israel; she is criticizing Jewish Americans. Her previous Twitter comments, where she said, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” illustrate an aggressive form of anti-Semitism as old as the Bible.  

There are many Jews and non-Jews who have issues with Israeli policies, dislike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and question Israel’s approach to peace. Omar’s comments are vastly different. Her tweets and comments are not targeted at Israel. They directly target Jewish Americans, casting doubt on their character and patriotism.

Therefore, it should come as no shock that among her defenders Omar can count David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who has lauded her comments, writing that, ‘‘By defiance to Z.O.G. Ilhan Omar is NOW the most important Member of the US Congress!’’

Jews have faced these accusations for centuries. In some regards, it is the most dangerous form of anti-Semitism. It is a charge alleging vicious motivations and inherent untrustworthiness. It is a genuinely disdainful charge that has far less to do with public discourse and far more to do with disparaging an entire group of Americans for political gain.  

When the media and the far left of the Democratic Party jump to Omar’s defense, one cannot help but ask why. On its surface, it is a pretty straightforward series of comments to condemn, and it undoubtedly warrants an excuse-free apology. Spurious charges of dual Jewish loyalty and Jewish money were the basis of much of the hatred that Jews faced in Germany before World War II, as well during many of the eastern European Pogroms and the Spanish Inquisition, all of which predate the founding of the modern State of Israel.  

Her apologists will point to the recently passed House resolution targeting all forms of bigotry, but sadly, the text was so diluted and it failed to censure Omar, who is undoubtedly the instigator of this most recent case of Jewish libel.

For thousands of years, anti-Semitism has cloaked itself in many garments. Its culprits are always full of excuses — but if it is not called out for what it is, its venom always continues to spread. The greatest Jewish tragedies in history did not start overnight; they were the result of baseless accusations left unanswered until it was too late.

The United States has the opportunity to defeat anti-Semitism once and for all, but first it must call it out for what it is and demonstrate to its offenders that those who declare prejudicial and bigoted remarks will be forced to face real and tangible consequences.   

Bruce Backman is president of Backman Consulting, a New York-based political consulting firm, specializing in opposition research. Follow him on Twitter @BackmanConsult.

Tags Anti-Zionism Antisemitism Criticism of the Israeli government Elizabeth Warren Ilhan Omar Ilhan Omar Politics

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